‘Incredible miracle’: Maui church unscathed by fire

  • Maria Lanakila Catholic Church in Lahaina survived the Hawaiian fires
  • Reverend: An 'incredible miracle' the church survived
  • Most of the destroyed city of Lahaina remains inaccessible

LAHAINA, Hawaii (NewsNation) — The wildfires that have killed at least 99 people in Maui County, Hawaii, spared Maria Lanakila Catholic Church in Lahaina while it destroyed thousands of structures around it.

The church, built in 1846, remains standing tall, untouched by the flames as a sign of hope for the people of Maui.

Reverend Monsignor Terrence Watanabe says it was an “incredible miracle” the church survived even as nearby buildings were destroyed.

Watanabe said he believes everyone was shocked to see it still standing. He explained that spiritually, people always try to look for the presence of God in the world, whether it be a rainbow or people’s love for one another; but this was a whole other level of God’s presence.

Right behind the church once stood a convent, preschool and two classrooms that all burned down in the fire. But the church itself and the rectory right next door survived.

The pastor at the church returned to it two days after the blaze, and found that nothing was touched or damaged, Watanabe said.

The last time something similar happened was right after the attacks on 9/11 when the two World Trade Center towers collapsed, destroying everything around them but the 17th century St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City. St. Paul’s became a place of consolation for emergency responders and a remembrance place for all those lives lost in the attacks.

But most of the destroyed city of Lahaina remains inaccessible. However, Watanabe said a few priests and the Bishop were able to gain the permission of the Maui Police Department to celebrate mass with surviving parishioners Sunday morning.

There, Watanabe said he heard “tragic and heart-wrenching” stories about the fires and all the community had been through. Some of those people were even trapped in their cars because traffic was backed up, so they had to get out of their cars and run through flames in order to survive.

But Watanabe said it’s important for people to understand it’s OK to be angry at God, but the worst thing to do would be to give God the silent treatment and not talk to Him.

“The Lord’s calling us to walk on water and do the impossible,” Watanabe said. “But at the same time, to trust in Him. And yes, there are doing to be times of doubt and fear because this is a long range of work ahead of us.”


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